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Political activist & Radical Photographer Séamus O’Riain 1937-2014. August 2, 2020

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Via The Irish Republican Marxist History Project

Séamus O’Riain with the Dubliners

Joan Dargon, Greta Ryan (flag bearer) Maura Lydon Dublin 1962. Greta is a sister of Mick Ryan.

Political activist & Radical Photographer Séamus O’Riain 1937-2014.
There are those of us who try to follow the path once taken by Casement, Pearse, Connie Green and O’Hanlon. We seek to put through the charter that was bought with blood of our glorious dead in 1916, which the Free State Regine failed to do, a charter that would make an All-Ireland Workers Republic. Séamus O’Riain, HM Prison Brixton, September 1967.

Séamus (Ryan) O’Riain was born into poverty on the 2nd, September 1937 to Katherine Ryan in Dublin. When Katherine married a Tom Ryan, Séamus was fostered out to a family called Corbally, unfortunately he was to end up in Drainages children’s detention centre in County Offaly. What’s more, he remained there for about three years before he was reunited with Katherine and step-father Tom at 51, Viking Road, Arbour Hill, Dublin. (Drainages treated the children more like slaves than children, stated a commission in 2009 that inquired into child abuse at the detention centre.)

O’Riain became an accomplished photographer, his employment for a number of years was at Jerome Photography Studio 4, Henry Street, Dublin. Creating hundreds of remarkable images which are a vital history of Republican and the Irish left-wing. Moreover, the photographs with his Phoenix Company in London featured Brendan Behan, The Dubliners and Tom Barry the former IRA Commander of the Third West Cork Flying Column, during the Irish War of Independence. Tom Barry praised him in a letter dated 24, August 1977, “A hundred note of thanks for your splendid set of photos. They are the finest I have ever seen and I have unfortunately, have had hundreds taken”.

His association with radicalism went back to his youth when he joined the IRA along with his comrade Liam Sutcliffe, during Operation Harvest the IRA 1950s border campaign. Like others of his generation, O’Riain migrated to London to find employment where he converting to Marxism when he became involved with the Irish Workers Group (IWG), along with his friends Frank Keane and Géry Lawless. In the late 1960s he forged links with Saor Éire Action Group, which was set up by members of the IRA and the Irish political left in Dublin. As an organisation they claimed to have their roots in the tradition of old Fenianism and the left-wing Republicanism that was prominent in the 1930s.

Importantly there’s a copy of correspondence between O’Riain and General Georgios Grivas the EOKA leader in March 1964, five months before the out-break of fighting when Grivas commanded the Cypriot national guard and Greek forces in Cyprus. As the leader of EOKA Grivas led the struggle (enosis the union of Cyprus with Greece) against the British. Séamus daughter Hazel said” my father was a very secret man and would travel abroad a lot on his own when I was young, so God only knows what he was up to politically”.

Arrested in September 1967 at Northchurch Road, Dalston, London and the charge against him that he had twenty four rifles, two Bren machine guns, four Bren machine guns barrels, ammunition and a case containing twelve magazines, expropriated from an R.A.F. training camp in Islington. Justice R.L. Seaton when passing sentence said: “You had In your possession an absolute armoury of weapons which, no doubt, a little expert attention would have put into good working order”. Not all the weapons were recovered by the police, a considerable amount made their way to Saor Éire in Ireland.

Little is known about the later years of his life, though while in prison his affable manner instantly put the Soviet espionage prisoners, possibly some of the Portland Spy Ring who were sentenced at the Old Bailey in March 1961, at ease where they became comrades. After his release from prison he stared a relationship with Mary an O’Donovan Rossa from Castletownroache in County Cork, they had two children Séamus and Hazel.
In conclusion, he died in London after a long illness and his funeral took place on July 23, 2014 in Mount Jerome cemetery Dublin. Family and friends including Frank Keane (National Organiser of Saor Éire) escorted the coffin, led to the graveside by a lone piper, playing a lament. He was laid to rest in a quiet corner of the cemetery where Saor Éire activists Liam Walsh, Máirín Keegan and Liam Sutcliffe are also buried.
I am in this court on the word of an informer a man despised even by the people he serves, and more so in my case, he is despicable, because he too is Irish. Séamus O’Riain, Brixton Prison, 1967.

Comments»

1. sonofstan - August 2, 2020

“As the leader of EOKA Grivas led the struggle (enosis the union of Cyprus with Greece) against the British”

Hmmm.
Strange friends for a leftist.

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2. CL - August 3, 2020

“Ioannou had been imprisoned in Nicosia central prison. but due to the large number of Eoka men in that prison and the rioting that followed hangings there he was among those transferred to England, where he met IRA prisoners and his relationship with Irish republicanism developed.
Ioannou immersed himself in Irish literature and history and was particulary impressed by the writings of James Connolly, which he translated into Greek for the benefit of his fellow Cypriot prisoners….

Among the Irish prisoners Ioannou met were Cathal Goulding and Sean Mac Stiofáin, later to become leaders of the Official and Provisional IRA respectively.”
https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/greek-cypriot-fighter-who-fell-in-love-with-ireland-and-irish-history-1.2240329

“In prison Murphy played chess with Klaus Fuchs, a German scientist jailed for giving atomic secrets to the Russians, while his fellow IRA prisoner Marcus Canning learned Greek from the Cypriots. Another Cypriot prisoner, George Ioannau, translated the writings of James Connolly into Greek.
The IRA had failed in an earlier attempt to get Goulding out, and the Séamus Murphy escape was the work of a splinter group associated with maverick republican Joe Christle, working with Eoka sympathisers living in London…..
When Vivas Lividas launched the Greek language edition of his book Cypriot and Irish Prisoners in British jails 1956-59 in 2007, Séamus Murphy visited Cyprus and met many old friends from prison days, including Nicos Sampson, by then a highly controversial, some would say suspect, figure.”
https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/ira-prisoner-on-life-sentence-who-escaped-from-wakefield-prison-1.2446680

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CL - August 3, 2020

“IN the 1950s, IRA and Cypriot EOKA anti-colonial fighters were held together in Wormwood Scrubs Prison in England. Both sets of political prisoners worked closely with each other, planning escapes and protecting each other from attacks by English prisoners”

photo- ” Irish and Cypriots who spent tine in English prisons in the 1950s meeting in Dublin, 2008. Vias Livadas, Renos Kyriakides, Séamus Murphy, Pat Farrelly, Manus Canning, Séamus Greally and Demetri Filiastides

https://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/24051

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CL - August 3, 2020
3. sonofstan - August 3, 2020

EOKA’s aim wasn’t independence from the Brits but unity with Greece, an outcome that would expose the Island’s Turkish population to a kind of minority existence that might resonate more closely with nationalist feeling in NI.
EOKA was close enough to being fascist and the successor organsation that organised the 1974 coup, EOKA B certainly was.

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WorldbyStorm - August 3, 2020

Virulently anti-communist and from what one can see anti-left.

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4. Daniel Rayner O'Connor - August 3, 2020

EOKA was a broad front. Grivas was, indeed, ‘virulently anti-Communist’. Sampson was not, tho’ he could be accused of being naive to ally with Grivas.
Even in ’74. EOKA did not have a policy of ascendancy towards Cypriot Turks.

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sonofstan - August 3, 2020

Northern unionism rarely explicitly ‘had a policy’ of ascendancy either. But in practice….

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